A few months ago I wrote about the “pull economy”, or more specifically about Lulu; a self-publishing website where you are able to upload your novel or whatever to their server, and if (perhaps a big “if”) someone wants to purchase a copy it can be printed off on demand and shipped out to your Mum, or whoever has actually stumped up the hard cash for the book.
Fine for self-publishing I thought, but I went on to wonder if
it could also show the way forward for more general book publishing in the future. For as long as people like me enjoy browsing in bookshops then I imagine there will always be a need for long print runs in order to fill up all those shelves in the stores; but on the face of it I can see no reason why a company like Amazon will in future need to hold any stock at all if technology is able to allow each book to be printed on demand as and when a customer orders it. In addition, theoretically no book need ever be out of print again, indeed the very term “out of print” could become an anachronism; just so long as they are held on file somewhere ready to be printed then all books, no matter how old or obscure, could be available whenever a potential customer wants to buy a copy.
Well, yesterday I read an article in The Economist concerning the future of Amazon.com. What do you know but towards the end of the article it states that
Amazon subsidiary, BookSurge, is busy courting publishers to have their works scanned into digital files. Modern printing techniques allow books to be printed relatively cheaply on demand, “whether it’s one copy or one thousand”, Greg Greeley, head of media products at Amazon, said when BookSurge was acquired last April.
On-demand printing is particularly suited to lower-volume books and those that would ordinarily be “out of print”. Amazon already sells print-on-demand books, although that is “invisible” to consumers, Mr Bezos (Amazon’s CEO) has said, because they look exactly like any other books.
That’ll be me then; speculating and dreaming of a bold and exiting future, while unwittingly already being way behind the curve. There’s clearly a reason why I’m not in business.
PostScript: Yes, I know, I know. I will try to stop writing posts concerning week old Economist articles; but if you ever wanted this blog to be innovative and topical then I’m sure you would have abandoned me long ago. I hope the fact that you’re still here means that you know what you’re getting.